Hard times are upon the Catholic Church. With the ever-growing influence of social media and news outlets, it’s as if the Church is drowning in a sea of viral misconceptions. The truth is hard to come by when you have to pick through the good and the bad of the media. In fact, it seems as though truth has become subjective… I’m sure everyone has heard the phrase, “What’s true for you may not be true for me.” Though there are a few things the Church has been criticized for, I believe the topic of women has been at the forefront for quite some time. The Church is seen as oppressive and demeaning to women. I’ve been hearing this an awful lot lately and it actually makes me really sad. If only the real Truth was out there… there would be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the Church raises women up and fully recognizes their importance, beauty and dignity. This is the first of a series of posts about the Church and Women and the common misconceptions surrounding the relationship of the two.
What I’ve found that seems to really rub people the wrong way comes from the Bible. Specifically, Ephesians 5: 22-23. From the New Jerusalem Bible it reads:
Wives should be subject to their husbands as to the Lord, since, as Christ is head of the Church and saves the whole body, so is a husband the head of his wife.
I believe some other commonly used versions of the bible, for example the King James Version, use the word “submit” or “submissive” instead of subject. In any case, when taken out of context, it does in fact seem to be implying men should in someway “rule” over their wives, and a good wife is supposed to allow this. I can definitely see how that conclusion can be drawn from these two lines. Before I returned back to the faith, I always heard about this verse and thought to myself, “Ugh, another old-fashioned way of thinking. People need to realize that the Bible was written in a different time than now. They need to modernize it!” The truth is, the Bible, including this verse, transcends time and in fact applies to the time period we are in now just as the time period it was written in. The problem is, this verse is taken out of context! Many people do not read the Bible (I’m guilty of this, too), and do not take the time to see what else is being said before and after the verse. This leads to confusion and the spread of misinformation.
As with anything in life, if you use something out of context, it can create a very dangerous situation. Let’s take a look at the verse again, but this time with some of the verses before and after it. Ephesians 5: 21-30.
Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be subject to their husbands as to the Lord, since, as Christ is head of the Church and saves the whole body, so is a husband the head of his wife; and as the Church is subject to Christ, so should wives be to their husbands, in everything.
Husbands should love their wives, just as Christ loved the Church and sacrificed himself for her to make her holy by washing her in cleansing water with a form of words, so that when he took the Church to himself she would be glorious, with no speck or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and faultless. In the same way, husbands must love their wives as they love their own bodies; for a man to love his wife is for him to love himself. A man never hates his own body, but he feeds it and looks after it; and that is the way Christ treats the Church, because we are parts of his Body.
Okay. So now, taken all together, that says something quite different! What these verses in fact say is, first, we must be subject to ALL out of our reverence and love for Christ. Secondly, it does say for wives to be subject to their husbands. That is, wives should be submissive to the mission and duty of their husband. The important question you may be asking now is, “What is the mission and duty of a husband?” Now it’s getting good!
First, let’s look at the origins of submit. I think it really sheds some light on this verse. Below, I’ve put a pretty little graphic I got from Google showing this for you. The word submit is from the Latin word submittere with sub- meaning ‘under’ and mittere meaning send or put. So essentially, submit means to be put under something. From this verse, it is used to mean that wives are to be put under the mission of their husbands.
Now back to the verse. It says, the mission of husbands is to “…love their wives, just as Christ loved the Church…” Let’s remember what Christ did for the Church (we are the Church)… oh yes, He loved us so much He died for us! I don’t know about you but when I was younger (okay, even now) I swooned over the idea of a man coming to save me… even sacrificing himself for me because he loves me that much and thinks I’m worth it. I blame Disney, but that’s a story for another day. Anyway, the whole knight in shining armor thing… it happened for every single one of us. Except the man who died for you didn’t have shining armor. In fact, He loved you so much that he allowed Himself to be humiliated in front of all and was stripped of all clothes before he was brutally crucified for you. I first heard it put this way at a talk by Father Donald Calloway, MIC (who is amazing by the way… Google him.) and I just about cried. I never really pondered on the idea of how much Christ loved me and what He willingly and happily put himself through for me. Jesus Christ is a real person who really went through much torture and agony for us. Christ is my knight… He’s OUR knight!
The image above is from the Isenheim altarpiece, painted by Matthias Grünewald and I think it’s a beautiful but sobering painting that more closely resembles how Jesus really looked when was crucified. Body contorted, face showing such strong emotion of agony and pain.
This painting shows what a husband is supposed to do for this wife. Though not necessarily physically, he must sacrifice himself out of love for his wife to make her holy. Believe it. So the mission of a wife is to be subject or submit to this mission of their husband. Wow. The life and mission of Jesus Christ is the best love story ever and it can be mirrored in every marriage through the grace of God and willing participation of both spouses. What this ultimately is, is submission to the will of God, and I’m all for that! Even Jesus Christ was submissive to the will of His Father which resulted in His crucifixion.
I mentioned Father Donald Calloway earlier and I highly recommend you look him up or watch some of his talks on YouTube. He also has a great book I just read (I’m thinking about posting a review on it here) named Under the Mantle. It touches on this subject and more. He’s not affiliated with this blog or me… I just really like the guy! He has a great perspective.
I think that’s enough for now. Thank you so very much for reading. Let’s stop the spread of misinformation of our beautiful Catholic Church and faith. If you liked this post or learned anything at all (I hope you did), please share it! Don’t forget to subscribe or like my Facebook page so you don’t miss a post in this series. Also, feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you thought about this first post. Until next time, may God bless you abundantly!